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Tuition Tips for the Disabled: A Crash Course in Scoring Financial Aid

November 2000


It's that time of year again. In an attempt to learn new skills that may make them more employable -- or to simply better themselves -- many readers have enrolled in school.

As for me, I have given up trying to better any part of myself. I can, however, share some good news with you if you're on Medi-Cal and you've decided to go to school.

No Penalty for Student Loans

Under most circumstances, Medi-Cal exempts student loans from assets and income consideration. Generally this means that if you borrow money to return to school you won't be penalized by Medi-Cal. This is significant because normally an applicant or recipient with assets above $2,000 (for an individual) is not eligible for Medi-Cal.

Don't get excited yet; there are some important details and exceptions to consider.

First, not all student loans are exempt but Medi-Cal does permit a broad range of loans, grants and fellowships. To be more specific, the following types of loans and grants that are exempt are:

  • Loans made under Title III of the Federal Economic Opportunity Act.

  • Loans or grants to an undergraduate student for educational purposes made or insured by the Federal Commissioner of Education. These programs include but are not limited to Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, National Direct Student Loans, College Work Study, Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, and federally insured student loans.

  • Educational loans or grants to undergraduate students when it is verified that the monies are awarded on the basis of the student's need. These include but are not limited to Extended Opportunity Program loans and grants, Bureau of Indian Affairs loans and grants, California State Scholarships (Cal Grant A), College Opportunity Grants (Cal Grant B), and Occupational, Educational-Training Grants (Cal Grant C).

  • Educational scholarships which are provided to the aged, blind and disabled enrolled in California public schools or institutions of higher learning. They must be awarded by an educational institution and cannot be provided to meet basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. This means that any loan or grant that is provided to pay directly for books, labs, tuition or any other educational necessity are exempt.

  • Other loans, grants, scholarships or fellowships are exempt if they are used by either an undergraduate or graduate student as long as the money is specifically limited for use for purposes other than current living costs. Typically this means that any other loans or grants that have not been already listed can be exempt if they are to be used specifically to assist in any educational need. The loan or grant must also be designed for students and not available to the general public.

The second and perhaps more important detail to consider is whether or not you are receiving Medi-Cal due to a cash grant. If you are receiving Medi-Cal due to a cash grant like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or CalWORKS any loan monies that you obtain can and probably will affect your monthly checks. This is true even though your eligibility for Medi-Cal would be unaffected. If you are receiving Medi-Cal because of SSI or any of the other cash grant programs that provide Medi-Cal the rules become much more intricate.

You can contact me directly or any other well informed public benefits advocate for advice about your specific case before you endeavor to obtain a student loan. It is still possible to receive both your cash grant and educational assistance but it does takes a bit more planning.

If you are a student returning to school who receives Medi-Cal separately from a cash grant, planning for your benefits is much easier in comparison. You need only consider the above limits and conditions when evaluating your student loans or grants. This means that if you have Medi-Cal as your only public benefit or if you have Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) as well as Medi-Cal the above regulations with regard to students loans apply specifically to you.

Questions About Medi-Cal and Returning to School?

If you have any additional questions about Medi-Cal and returning to school, feel free to contact me. Remember that AIDS Project Los Angeles offers a wonderful Work Services Program that can assist Medi-Cal recipients or anyone receiving public benefits assistance with an interest in returning to school or work. The Work Services Program can be reached at (323) 993-1659.

Good luck to all of you returning students. Play nice with the other kids!

Looking for Financial Aid?

Source: Los Angeles Times

(800) 4-FED-AID Department of Education hotline that will answer questions about everything from filling out financial aid forms to options on repaying student debt. - Links to state, federal, and local sources of aid. - Electronic research tool that helps find private scholarships, grants and aid from more than 500,000 sources. - Financial aid information and advice, along with handy calculator that can help you determine how much of the college costs your family will be expected to pay.

College Cost & Financial Aid Handbook - The College Board.

Scholarship Handbook 2000 - The College Board.

Kiplinger's Financing College - by Kristin Davis. Kiplinger Books.

The Complete Scholarship Book - Sourcebooks.

The Scholarship Advisor - by Chris Vuturo. Random House/Princeton Review Publishing.

Paying for College Without Going Broke - by Kalman A. Chany with Geoff Martz. Random House/Princeton Review Publishing.

Rob Langelier is a Medi-Cal specialist in APLA's Benefits Program. He can be reached by calling (323) 993-1478 or by e-mail at

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
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